Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, 120 miles southeast of the Greek mainland.
The inshore waters of Nisos Thira (Santorini) consists of a deep bay formed from the crater of a submarine volcano. Sailing and then anchoring in the crater is an eerie and unsettling experience.
Santorini is what remains after an enormous volcanic explosion in 1650bc that destroyed the original single island and created the current caldera (volcanic crater) – a huge central lagoon measuring 7km by 12km, surrounded by steep 300m high cliffs on three sides.
The main town is Fira, perched at the top of the cliffs, 1,000 feet above the bay. The volcanic rock of the cliffs is very dark, accentuating the beauty of the white and blue of the buildings in the town.
Taking advantage of the lull in our recent snowy weather, we did a winter walk around the Hampshire village of Selborne (between Alton and Petersfield on the B3006). Free NT parking (with new toilets) is available behind the Selborne Arms (SatNav GU34 3JH). This short walk is part of the 21-mile long Hangers Way.
The village is famous with naturalists around the world due to the pioneering work of the Reverend Gilbert White, Vicar of Selborne from 1751 to his death in 1793. White published one of the classic titles of English literature; The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), a book which, incredibly, has never been out of print! White was born in the village in 1720, returning after attending college in Oxford where he had been ordained.
Our walk led us up onto Selborne Hill and Common (owned by the National Trust) using the well-trodden ‘zigzag’ path actually cut into the hillside by Gilbert White and his brother John in 1753. The sides of the path are lined by expertly laid low hedgerows. The view from the top over Selborne and the surrounding countryside makes the fairly steep ascent (360ft) worthwhile.
We climbed in the snow but when we got into the beech-hanger woodlands, we were up to our ankles in thick, heavy clarty mud. We slipped and slithered – over the brown mulch from decaying autumn leaves – back down into the village, calling into Gilbert White’s House Tea Parlour for strong Assam tea and warm scones with clotted cream. Yes, I know it’s only January but summer teas do seem such a long way off!
We visited St Mary’s Church on the way back to the car. This rather beautiful stained glass window in memory of Rev. Gilbert White is worth noting … ‘For a faithful priest and a writer of genius’. His striking black memorial stone is set in the floor just in front of the altar.
This walk can be extended beyond the village along the Oakhanger stream but we’ll come back and do that another day. We’d seen enough mud for one day but the views from Selborne Hanger made our mud bath truly worthwhile.
I wonder if the Tea Parlour are still cleaning their floors?
Now this really is crazy – here’s what I take for my gadgets every time I go away in order to communicate and keep in touch with work and everyone back home!
UK mobile + separate charger
International mobile + separate charger
Laptop + separate charger
Tablet + separate charger
Ipod + separate charger#
Ipod speakers + batteries
Camera + separate charger
Shaver + separate charger
USB lead for the phone
USB drives for backing up data
Whatever happened to convergence? Why are electrical leads and chargers not made more uniform? Anyway, I’m just about to pack it all away and travel home again, so here goes …
I’m used to seeing Books for Exchange put out on a table at our local station, usually on behalf of one of the cancer charities. Driving through rural Suffolk recently my eye was taken by this iconic red BT telephone box used as a book exchange in this village.
I stopped to take a look and found no phone but a goodly selection of books put there to be read by anyone passing.
Very enterprising – has anyone seen anything similar elsewhere in the UK?
Gladstone’s Library was founded by Victorian Statesman, William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), arguably Britain’s greatest Prime Minister, and the most significant Anglican lay person of the last two centuries. Four times Liberal Prime Minister, four times Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Parliamentarian for 63 years, few politicians have achieved as many lasting reforms as Gladstone. He even came within a hair’s breadth of bringing peace to Ireland with his sadly ill-fated Home Rule Bill.
Gladstone was a pragmatic political leader with an insatiable interest in history, literature, the classical world and theological dispute; a voracious reader who read 20,000 books. Britain at this time was the most powerful nation on earth, at the height of Queen Victoria’s imperialism.
I find it hard to reconcile Gladstone’s clear Christian conviction with the hypocrisy and barbarity of Empire. Yet he was solidly at the heart of it. Was he compromised by this or did he provide the conscience against even greater excesses?
‘We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace … nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right’. W. E Gladstone.
Gladstone, a millionaire, lived in the Castle in the village of Hawarden, North Wales, just a few miles from Chester. This is the site of St Deiniol’s Library which Gladstone founded. He bought the land in 1889 and the Library opened in 1894. The present Grade 1 listed building was opened in 1902 as the National Memorial to Gladstone. It is the only Prime Ministerial Library in the UK and is unique in being a residential library with 26 study bedrooms, some now fully refurbished and en-suite.
It’s a fascinating Victorian building; with the double-tier library occupying one entire wing and the residential areas including the dining room, kitchen and chapel the other. The bedrooms and offices are spread across the whole of the first floor. You quickly get to find your way around as the building is not actually that large.
I decided, after my week, that this is a rather special and unusual place.
Gladstone’s influence pervades the entire place. There is a huge granite statue in the grounds gazing out over the village! There are pictures, busts and other statues of the GOM (Grand Old Man) everywhere including a photo collage detailing the main aspects of his life in the main corridor leading to the dining room.
The library was created around Gladstone’s original donation of 32,000 books. It houses a world renowned collection of theology and nineteenth century studies. The collection boasts more than 250,000 items. Gladstone wanted his library to be a country house “for the Pursuit of Divine Learning”, offering ‘insight and refreshment’ to visiting scholars and users.
The library is galleried with access to the second floor up some very narrow, winding and rickety stairs with rope handholds! Here you go back in time. This is an old-style ‘quiet’ library; individual study tables with desk lamps and old comfy leather chairs. It’s extremely conducive to study and thought, which of course is the USP of the place. It’s why it works so well. You come here specifically to think, write, study, reflect and retreat. It’s open in the evening until 10pm which I found to be a real boon.
The book collection covers mainly theology and history with the emphasis on publications from the late Victorian period. The GladCat computer system makes finding books within the library very easy indeed. There’s a thrilling touch of serendipity to come across books with Gladstone’s own pencilled annotations!
The property has a mixture of older and the newer refurbished bedrooms. I had one of the older rooms (Room 7, no view) which was very spacious, with the bathroom directly opposite. There are no TV’s in any of the bedrooms which I think is good! Broadband is fast, free and available throughout the building although one guest said it didn’t work in some of the bedrooms. I had no problems. One bug-bear however was the horrible noise late at night and early in the morning caused by the expansion of the hot water pipes!
I found that in a very short time, the place draws you into its own daily rhythm. You feel very much apart from the day-to-day. There’s a lovely modern Chapel on the ground floor. Communion takes place each weekday morning at 8am, following the Church of Wales Anglican liturgy.
The ‘Food for Thought’ Coffee Shop replaces the dining room during the day and provides snacks and drinks. I found the food overall – both in quantity and quality – adequate but not noteworthy. After dinner, the Gladstone Lounge takes on the atmosphere of a club or common room. An honesty bar operates from this room. There is a good selection of daily newspapers available both in the dining room and in the lounge. The Fox and Grapes pub, just a short distance away across the road, serves good beer and food if, as I did, you want to get away from the library for just a while.
‘Be inspired with the belief that life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing that we are to shuffle through as best we can, but an elevated and lofty destiny’.
W. E Gladstone.
Amberley is a small but quaint village in West Sussex, England, situated at the foot of the South Downs. It‘s fairly close to Arundel with its impressive castle. The village has long been known for its hotchpotch of thatched cottages. Amberley has its own station stop on the Arun Valley Line plus a popular rural life museum.
The village is ‘picture-postcard Sussex’ set on a slope above the river Arun, all pretty cottages, gardens and thatch. Amberley also has a castle with high forbidding walls, now a Country House Hotel. The ‘castle’ was actually a fortified manor House, built next to the Norman church of St Michael.
The villages of Amberley and Bury across the Arun were joined, since Charles II’s reign, by a ferry, operated by the occupants of a cottage on the opposite bank but sadly the ferry ceased operating in 1965.
The Bishops of Chichester had a summer residence here, probably before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Although there are references to the lands at Amberley being granted to St Wilfrid in 670 by the Saxon King Cedwalla, there is no mention in the Domesday Book of a church here in 1086. Soon after the Norman invasion, an earlier Saxon wooden church was replaced by a stone structure and the church was enlarged around 1150-1160, the work of Bishop Luffa who also built Chichester Cathedral.
The magnificent chancel arch dates from this period as does the square font, with its shallow blank arches carved in the Purbeck marble. The interior is completely dominated by this arch carved in the Norman style: row upon row of zig-zag carving covers the sides and underneath of the arch, supported by robust smooth-leaf capitals.
To the south of the chancel arch are 12-13th century wall paintings, depicting scenes from the life of Christ. These are known as ‘Passion cycle’ paintings similar in purpose to the English Mystery Plays, telling in narrative sequence, the story of Christ’s Passion and death, sometimes continuing to the Resurrection and beyond. There are similar wall paintings in the Parish church at Kempley in Gloucestershire.
Outside the church, the high walls of the castle dominate the churchyard. Set in the castle wall is a wooden door through which the Bishops presumably walked to the church: it is named in honour of the most eminent of their number, St Richard of Chichester.
Saint Richard was the Bishop of Chichester (b.1197, d.1253) and was canonised in 1262. He is perhaps best known for his popular prayer of Christian devotion (see below).
His statue now stands outside the West Door of the beautiful cathedral church at Chichester.
‘Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother
May I know Thee more clearly
Love Thee more dearly
and follow Thee more nearly’
The prayer of Saint Richard: Bishop of Chichester 1245 – 1253
After over 30 years of discussion and 4 years of excavation and finishing works, the £371m A3 Hindhead Tunnel (built by Balfour Beatty) opened fully to traffic today. Southbound traffic started using the tunnel on Wednesday and this morning (Friday), the northbound bore was opened.
Hopefully, the queues of past years are behind us and this major bottle-neck in the southeast of England has finally been eliminated.
It was suggested this week that the Hindhead tunnel marks the last major road project in England, certainly for the foreseeable future. One casualty of Government cuts is the proposed relief road around the historic site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Basically, the money has run out for huge public works projects!
Click here for my earlier post of the A3 Hindhead Tunnel walkthrough in May 2011.
Due to its position in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, the island of Madeira is ideal for watching visiting whales and the many different types of dolphins.
At just five kilometres off shore the island shelf drops to a depth of more than 3,000 meters making these serene and beautiful animals easy to spot and watch from a boat.
These photos were taken by the author on one such visit on a rather grey day in May 2011.